A LEADING Worcester politician has issued a passionate rallying call to protect Keith the seal - saying she is bringing "joy and happiness" to people across the city.

Councillor Richard Udall has urged those thinking about capturing her to avoid "intervening in nature" and let her be.

He also believes Keith's presence is boosting Worcester's profile across the country - saying people have been flocking to the riverside to try and spot her.

It comes as more than 3,500 people have now put their name to a petition calling for her to be left alone.

Coun Udall, who represents St John's, has written to the chief executive of Natural England David Webster to urge him to back his stance.

"Before the weirs were constructed Worcester used to be tidal - marine mammals were frequent visitors to the area," he said.

"I understand the concern of anglers, but we should not be intervening in nature to protect one species from another, especially as what Keith is doing is natural and normal.

"She is not an alien creature, she brings joy, happiness and entertainment to the river banks.

" People have told me that they have gone out time and time again to walk the river banks in the hope of seeing her."

Coun Udall said "all users of the river need to be careful of wildlife", including the boats seen along the route.

In his letter, he said Keith is now "a major tourist attraction" in Worcestershire, and is providing a "natural educational resource" for children.

The Angling Trust has vowed to try and capture the seal and return her back to sea with the help of British Divers Marine Life Rescue (BDMLR) after it was previously granted a licence.

But so far she has remained elusive, delighting most of the public.

Tight laws govern how grey seals can be shot between September 1 and December 31, but there are fears someone may take matters into their own hands now it is open season.

Natural England said that under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, commercial fishermen and landowners are the only people allowed to shoot seals during open season.

To sign the petition to save Keith, log on to gopetition.com/petitions/